One of the reasons that The Negotiation podcast was created was to provide a platform for experts to share their perspectives and unique insights on various matters related to China. Over the last two years, we’ve published 99 episodes featuring guests from a wide range of industry backgrounds and nationalities.
For its 100th episode, The Negotiation Podcast was honoured to welcome two special guests: Dominic Barton, Ambassador of Canada to the People’s Republic of China, and Sarah Kutulakos, the COO & Executive Director at the Canada China Business Council.
Ambassador Barton has enjoyed a unique, front row perspective on China’s economic ascendance over the last two decades. Not only has he served as Canada’s top diplomat in China since September 2019, but he spent significant time in China and other APAC countries during his distinguished career with McKinsey & Company, where a significant part of his role involved advising the world’s leading companies on how to succeed in China.
First posted to Seoul with McKinsey in 1997, Ambassador Barton led the firm’s South Korea office from 2000 to 2004. He then served as McKinsey’s Asia Chairman and was based out of Shanghai from 2003 to 2009. During that time, he wrote China Vignettes, a book examining the varied life experiences of people across Chinese society. In 2009, Ambassador Barton was named McKinsey’s Global Managing Director, the firm’s top executive position, which he held until 2018. He also served as chair of Teck Resources and on Canada’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth before his appointment as Ambassador to China.
In this special 100th episode, Todd chatted with Ambassador Barton about his views on the main drivers of China’s economic growth, lessons that the West can learn from China’s growth, and why he continues to believe in China’s growth fundamentals. Ambassador Barton pointed to urbanization, infrastructure development, investments in education and human capital, and technocratic leadership as major trends that have propelled China’s growth and will continue to do so in the coming years.
“I look back on presentations that I gave in 2003, and we would talk about the fundamental drivers [of Chinese growth],” he said, “And those have stayed the course, they haven’t changed, and I believe they’re going to continue at least until 2030.”
Ambassador Barton also shared personal stories about his time travelling, living, and working in China, as well as lessons from his book. He urged Westerners to appreciate the great diversity within China.
“Let’s not think about China as a monolith. There are so many different layers. There’s the government, there’s the people-to-people ties, there’s business ties, there’s the consumer, there’s the regions. There’s so many different layers that need to be understood. And then there’s the people,” he said.
In addition, this Canada-focused episode of The Negotiation also welcomed back Sarah Kutulakos from the Canada China Business Council.
Sarah discussed China’s most promising business sectors and the changing business relationships between China and Western countries. She noted that it’s important for Western companies in China to align with China’s economic policy priorities, and also urged Canadian companies to be more aggressive about expanding in China.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do with CCBC is to keep going at that clock speed and to encourage Canadian companies to be more aggressive about going after China, because they tend to sometimes be a little complacent and that puts us at a disadvantage versus Americans or Europeans that might be more energetic in the market,” she noted.
Thanks to this week’s guests for making episode 100 extra special, and thank you to our listeners for tuning in every week!